Tuesday marks the deadline for applications to take part in the auction of 4G spectrum.
The stakes are high with Chancellor George Osborne banking on a £3.5 billion windfall from the sale - a far cry from the £22.5 billion raised when 3G spectrum frequencies were auctioned in 2000.
Stephen Temple led much of the NTL preparatory work for the joint NTL/France telecom 3G bid.
Speaking to the Today programme, he said: "If you look at the market conditions today and compare those with 2000, conditions are very tough in the UK mobile market.
"[In 2000] it was an expanding market, whereas today the market is saturated."
Mr Temple added that he thought 4G would provide a much better service than 3G.
"There are tens of thousands of coverage black spots with 3G services," he said.
"4G is a radio engineer's dream, it irons out all these black spots and delivers signals very reliably, not just within buildings but also out into semi-rural areas."
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